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Posted by: John Brace | 8th December 2014

Labour and Conservative councillors both say no to Greasby Fire Station plans

Labour and Conservative councillors both say no to Greasby Fire Station plans

                                                

In an update to a previous story about the changes to filming public meetings of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, I have received a formal response from Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority about my petition on the subject.

The letter is included below. The gist of it is I can present my petition at the public meeting on the 16th December 2014. I’ve decided to present it myself and not through one of the councillors, considering that at least one of the Wirral Council councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority is well-known for his anti-public meeting filming views.

letter from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority about filming petition received 6th December 2014

letter from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority about filming petition received 6th December 2014

I also get up to five minutes to state how many people signed the paper and e-petition, what the petition is about and “further supporting remarks”. I’ve decided to not opt for the “deputation” option which would have allowed councillors (including Cllr Steve Niblock if he is present) to ask questions of me.

Whereas I could probably talk on the subject of filming public meetings for more than five minutes, this is certainly a positive step on the road to getting things changed and having a say at a public meeting on the issue thanks to the many who have signed the paper and e-petition so far and the many more who watch the videos I’ve recorded since September of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meetings.

Moving to more local matters, tonight’s Council meeting has unusually two notices of motion on fire related matters.

The Labour motion “Government’s Fire and Rescue Service Cuts” is down to be debated tonight, I’m not sure what’s happening to the Conservative motion “No Fire Station in the Centre of Greasby” as nothing is now next to it on the agenda published on Wirral Council’s website. This is what each notice of motion states:

2. NO FIRE STATION IN THE CENTRE OF GREASBY
Proposed by Councillor Tom Anderson
Seconded by Councillor Wendy Clements

Council acknowledges the overwhelming public opposition to a fire station on the site of Greasby Library.

Council notes that this concern relates to the specific site, not to the policy of merging of fire stations.

Council impresses upon Cabinet:
(1) not to gift, sell, lease the land concerned at the centre of Greasby, because of the value it has for the community; and
(2) to ask officers to work co-operatively with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service in identifying and facilitating a more suitable site for operational purposes and to maintain the amenity of the local people.

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3. GOVERNMENT’S FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE CUTS

Proposed by Councillor Phil Davies
Seconded by Councillor Adrian Jones

Council welcomes the announcement by the Leader of the Council to withdraw the Council-owned land in the centre of Greasby from consideration for a new fire station.

Given the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s obligation to maximise the protection of lives, and of property, it is inevitable that the location of Fire Stations may, from time to time, conflict with local preferences particularly where such structures may detract from the established scenic value of the MFRA’s preferred locations.

The Government’s devastating and unfair cuts to MFRA’s budget have resulted in the unavoidable need to cut the number of Fire Stations in Wirral. The Fire and Rescue Authority’s preferred location of a single Fire Station on a site in the centre of Greasby was based on its assessment of life saving response times. However, this would result in the loss of a much loved local green space.

The Council is asked to continue to work with the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority to identify an alternative site in the greater Greasby area.

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Responses

  1. Mr Brace, I expected the ” Filming Issue ” to be raised by at least one of the Authorities. The DCLG is the Body to Contact over this, not a Petition. In regards to Fire Stations, tell me how did they look at Response Times? Previous Incidents/Crystal Ball. Tell me if West Kirby Railway Station or the Library had an incident, what would be your response time, from the Present Station and from the proposed one? Tell me ” If there is a need for a Fire Tender Station at Greasby, why hasnt one been built already? You have stated that Government have devastated your Budget, how can they do that?, it is my understanding, the Fire and Rescue Service Authority, get a Budget and they have to live within that Budget.

    • DCLG have changed the law. However DCLG are not filming Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meetings.

      MFRA do have a Monitoring Officer who is the author of that letter. As far as I remember it is from officer/s of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service that suggested changes to the constitution have to come, then be agreed by councillors on the MFRA.

      Yes they looked at response times, the Chief Fire Officer has made that clear at many meetings.

      My wife says I drive too fast anyway, but even without a car I’ve managed to get to locations miles away faster than emergency vehicles (who can get easily stuck in traffic).

      West Kirby Railway Station from the current West Kirby fire station would from starting the vehicle to getting there be just a matter of minutes (although walking it would be quicker). A similar answer I would give for West Kirby library.

      From the proposed station at Greasby (which isn’t going to happen now at that specific location) it would obviously take longer to West Kirby if West Kirby fire station was shut.

      There is only a need for a fire station at Greasby if Upton and West Kirby are closed.

      The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service budget is mainly made up of two elements and is agreed annually by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

      The first element is Council Tax (as a precepting authority they can decide to put up, down or keep the same the fire element of Council Tax if they so wish). The second element is mainly from national government from non-local tax revenues.

      Yes they agree a budget each year for the next year. However currently the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service are employing more people than they should according to their budget by using reserves due in part to budget underspends caused by to give one example less pay having to be paid out due to recent strike action.

    • One point I will make is that if the fire appliances at either Upton or West Kirby are out on a call and another call is received their response time may be shorter or longer if they are available (for example returning from another call).

  2. Forgive me Mr Brace, if the Government give you the Right, by way of Regulation or Statute and lets make it clear we are all equal under the Law, it is getting like an Orwell Book, as you pointed out ” Some more equal than others” who is the complainant? You or the Government? or you and the Government? As for the Monitoring Officer(s) they are there to enforce the Law and ensure that the Law is carried out, not create it, even the Highest of Judges cannot do that!!!!!!

    • If they tried to stop me filming a public meeting then yes I could challenge that through the courts as I would be the claimant “The Queen on the application of John Michael Brace”.

      Judges decide case law all the time, some judges even decide laws such as the Election Petition Rules 1960.

      However yes the Monitoring Officer does have that as part of her role, but whether Monitoring Officers do what statute requires them to do when issues are raised with them, varies from public body to public body.

      I’ve met plenty of Monitoring Officers who just don’t want to “rock the boat” and put something on the agenda for councillors to decide (causing more expense, time and upset many months later when said Monitoring Officer may have moved on to a job elsewhere)…

    • In relation to the Authority above, they are paid to do what they may have to do, like the Police and other Emergency Services and I am sure as Mr G say’s most are Bonza Guy’s and Girl’s or being Politically correct ” Officers ” However I do not believe that they would be serving any interest by Debating Filming, Erasing Disc Time or creating Disc Space, especially when the Law has changed

      • Right, the law changed August 6th 2014.

        The government issued non statutory guidance to public bodies affected suggesting they adopt a policy.

        Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (not the Authority) came up with a policy (partly copied from somewhere else) that is at odds with the new law and published it on 18th November 2014.

        Therefore the current new policy (yet to be approved formally by councillors) and constitution are both at odds with the new regulations giving councillors the impression they have a power they don’t have (to stop filming) in response to objection/s from member/s of the public.

        The rational way to sort out the above is to petition the authority first as to sue, it would require a Chair to first stop filming at a public meeting (which hasn’t happened yet) for a breach of the regulations to occur…

  3. You are obviously referring to Judicial Review again and should that take place then the Crown could/may/possibily enter as a party, if it so desires. However I understand that the Crown is not a party to a Court Case. Howver it can give directions to monitoring officers, through Circulars and other intrernal articles and I am quite sure it has already done so

    • DCLG has issued guidance, but it’s not on a statutory basis so public bodies are under no obligation to follow it or pay regard to it.

      Personally I’d prefer monitoring officers to actually read the regulations (although actually getting a solicitor paid by a public body to read the law seems at times to be somewhat of an uphill struggle as some think they can give advice on laws that they have not read (or if they have read have forgotten/misunderstood)).

  4. Think about it for a minute, you have say a Career Officer, he/she does not wish to bring any Agency into Disrepute or Conflict with their Superiors. Each person of Standing has their own Authority Guidance, whether it be Standing Orders or Regulations or by Statute. failure to read that Guidance, understand that Guidance or Failed to Refresh their Memory or just plain ignore that Guidance Renders them Liable for Disciplinary at the least. It also helps when you have indeed advised,warned or other form guidance to them. It is like PACE, it is there if it is required

    • Since when did the local police actually follow the PACE codes of practice?

      You can have all the policies, procedures, guidance, laws and rules in the world. People are only human and they do what they’re told or what they think their boss wants them to do.

  5. A Solicitor not only has to follow the Law, they also have guidance from the SRA, Councillors follow the Nolan Principles, Police also have ACPO Guidance, certainly a Uniform Service would have some form of Disciplinary procedure and Guidance to avoid Officers becoming liable and of course the Agency

    • As you and I know, the law is open to interpretation and there are plenty of grey areas where it’s not so black & white.

      Police (even in the recent past) don’t follow ACPO guidance anyway. I give a Merseyside Police sergeant insisting I erase my video footage of a public meeting before leaving the room as an example of that.

      The worst I can do is embarrass people though, it’s far more effective than any alternative!

  6. Caparo Industries plc v Dickman [1990] UKHL.

                  No legal limitation was ever placed on the court’s liberty to read in private any materials it thought fit, whether for the purposes of a particular case before it or in order to acquire information about current affairs generally.
                  Long before Pepper v. Hart Lord Hailsham L.C. said in Parliament: ‘I always look at " Hansard ", I always look at the Blue Books, I always look at everything I can in order to see what is meant . . . The idea that [the Law Lords] do not read these things is quite rubbish’ (1981 H.L. Deb. (5th series) col. 1346).
                  From the bench Lord Denning assented: ‘Having sat there for five years, I would only say: “I entirely agree and have nothing to add”’ (Hadmor Productions Ltd. v. Hamilton [1983] 1 AC 191 at 201).
    
                  The above is a very small portion of Case Law (Contrct - Tort)
    
    • Generally how it should read: ” No legal Limitation was ever placed on the Court’s Liberty to read in private any materials, relevant to a case Long Before Pepper v Hart Lord Halisham said in Parliament. he always looked at Hansard and the Blue Books and anything he thought Relevant to Bring him up to date with General things. Lord Denning assented to this Belief (sorry about the above, I thought it would have saved me Typing). I also have a bad Right hand.

      • What are Blue Books?

    • Indeed.

  7. Dear John,

    Thanks for your recent info regarding Fire Station plans in Wirral. May I point out that you have left your address on view in the letter from WBC.

    (Just in case you prefer to conceal it to avoid cranks!)

    David Horton, Greasby.

    Sent by DH from HTC ONE mobile.

    • Hi David,

      Yes I know (a letter from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority not Wirral Council), but:

      (a) there’s a spelling mistake in the house name probably based on misreading a m as an n,
      (b) my address has been in the public domain for years anyway,

      and

      (c) anyone can find out the address easily anyway so there’s no point in blacking it out.

  8. The last entry from me were examples of the respective Internal Guidance of the People with Standing, not an exhaustive List of either their own guidance or the law itself. I think you missed my point reference PACE and also you again introduced the point of the Sergeant as an example. This is why you have Rules and Regulations. You are again quite right about PACE it may not be followed to the letter, however if Rules are broken you can Complain and use those rules in any Subsequent Action. Further, you cannot legislate for “Mistake” Why is it used on a Regular Basis to allievate problems. It is not my place to point out errors of individuals, whether it be the Police or others, unless it directly affects me or the Family. I know and you know that what was done was wrong on the occasion you mention, however it is up to you, if any further action is needed. As for the ” Blue Books ” Unless I am mistaken and I will check this, I believe the Honorable Lord may have been referring to STONES JUSTICES MANUALS, but I will Check that, unless it is a Constitutional Reference Book, I have not heard of.

    • Well put it this way, even if a police officer asks me to delete video footage. When I return it can be undeleted (just takes time).

      So as they say it’s no skin off my nose whether it’s deleted or not as I manage to do that by accident far more times than I’ve been requested to by a police officer!


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